On food: you can learn to like anything.

American Pie told us that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about food at about the same frequency. It’s not only a need, but a genuine pleasure. I. Love. Food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love cooking it, I love talking about it.

So what if I told you that I used to like…next to nothing? Okay, that’s not true. I just didn’t like anything that was good for me. I come from a family of amazing cooks who managed to hide nutrition under a veil of deliciousness. “Don’t let her know that those are mushrooms, not beef” they would whisper in the kitchenHere’s the thing: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be healthy or that I preferred junk food, I just simply didn’t like the way things tasted. Walking through a farmers market, my mouth drooled at the juicy, ripe heirloom tomatoes, the colorful cauliflower, the deep, dark bunches of kale…but when I tasted them, I (literally) spat them out. What con artists these veggies were! Using their beauty to distract from their absolutely disgusting taste!

At 21, being the only one of my friends eating a plain hamburger at Barney’s – hold the tomato, lettuce, onion and bun – I realized that maybe it was time for a change. I wanted to play for the other team. I wanted to know why on earth people paid extra for avocado. So, I gave up meat. For 40 days.

In my still developing little brain, I assumed that if you don’t eat meat, the only thing left on the planet to eat is vegetables, and I would therefore be forced to like them or I would in fact starve.

Let’s just take a moment to pause here and be very grateful for no longer being 21. Amen.  

And for three days, that’s basically what happened. I was living on rice and fruit. So much fruit. But then my senses kicked in and I walked my hungry ass to the market. I piled up on all the things I thought looked good and was determined to make them taste good. I grabbed a couple of cookbooks, tied my apron and put my game face on. It was time to cook.

For the next 37 days all I did was cook…and eat. At first, I still hated most things. I’ve never been much into salt, so the veggies had to stand all on their own. I learned to mix spices, the difference between eating a carrot raw, steamed, roasted and fried…what I preferred and what I didn’t. (Raw and roasted. Never steamed. That’s why I hated grandma’s carrots…) I slowly learned that I could in fact learn to like anything…I just had to find out how. 

Fast forward to the end of my forty days and I was a bonafide vegetable eater. My family couldn’t even believe that I was the one to prep a spinach salad and green beans for Easter brunch. Me! Gina! Girl transformed!

Fast forward nine years later and I am now mostly a plant-based eater. I say mostly because I simply don’t  want to give up steak tartare or crispy slices bacon. That is not to say that I now love everything, it’s just that I have had a shift in perspective. As with so many other things in life, we build a box and then we sit in it, sometimes wondering what life could be like on the outside (but not often ready to admit it). Stepping out of the box can be scary – like ordering something you’ve never heard of from the menu – and maybe when you do, you won’t like what you find. Or maybe you will. You just have to keep trying. Over and over and over again.

My current battle is with beets. Round, colorful, beautiful looking beets. I hate them. The smell. The texture. The aftertaste. But I will like them, damnit. So I order them every chance I get. One of these days, I’ll stumble on something outside of the box that makes me so glad I took the first step. 

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Tiny space, big moves: resistance bands workout.

Being active is essential in living a feel good life. Movement, in and of itself, is proof that we are indeed alive. But far beyond six packs and bikinis, there is great reward in testing the limits of our own bodies. We learn where our comfort zone is… and we build the confidence to break out of it. 

As a barre instructor, I am fueled by the dedication to self my students showed day after day. Despite bitchy bosses, projects gone wrong and inboxes that never seem to hit zero, these women come in the studio with a fierce attitude, ready to show themselves who really is boss. They push, pull and fight against the urge to make excuses. I thought of them this morning as I was ready to say “I can’t workout today because it’s really too windy outside.” Um, what?

A more reasonable excuse would have been: I don’t have enough space. I live on a boat, after all, and there really is not a lot of space. I mean, talk about tiny living. AND the ground under me is constantly moving. Do you workout in an earthquake?! Yet, even I know that space isn’t much of an excuse….and people do entire workouts on Bosu balls…sooooo as my mother always says: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And when I have it my way, I always opt for a lower body workout. Today’s tiny space workout went something like this:

1 resistance band, 5 moves, 30 reps, 3 rounds through…and a lot of booty burn.

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Food hangover + lots of R’s.

I don’t like chips. Not really. I mean, they’re okay but there are about 5,000 other things I’d eat first. Coconut anything takes the first 1,000 slots or so.

Well, two weeks ago, wandering around Trader Joe’s with a cart full of produce, a bag of sweet potato tortilla chips made their way into my cart. Not an outward sign of crisis by any means. An hour later, standing in my kitchen, purusing the internet, I pulled out the giant bag (this was no single serving packet, mind you) and I downed the entire thing without even noticing. Seriously. It wasn’t until I reached in and realized it was EMPTY that I paused to actually breathe.

Standing there, empty bag in my hand, I am pretty sure my jaw touched the floor as I tried to remember the last ten minutes of my life. What the hell just happened? Did I actually eat this whole thing unconsciously? I looked left, I looked right, and carefully tucked the empty bag deep into the garbage and walked away to pretend like it never happened.

The next day, I was back at the grocery store picking up some basil for a super clean, plant-based “lasagna” I had planned for dinner and that same damn bag of chips managed to hitch a ride back to the apartment with me. I got home, put my goodies in the fridge and…what happened next? You guessed it. Total food blackout. A second bag. Done. Gone. Finito.

This time, I sat there, staring at the empty bag completely stumped. Two months ago, I was happier than I have honestly ever been, treating my mind and body right and reaping all of the joyous rewards that come with actually caring about yourself. What the hell had gotten into me? Well, okay, I know now what had gotten into me. I was stressed. I am stressed…and I’m not putting myself first. Second. Or third.

Over the past two weeks I can safely, and sadly, say that I have woken up with a legitimate food hangover more than 70% of the time. If you don’t know what a food hangover is, let me tell you. It’s when your body feels, not necessarily looks, soooooo icky inside from treating it like shit, that you might as well be nursing yourself back to life from a freshman-sized tequila-enduced misery. Sounds like I’m exaggerating? Consider yourself lucky that you don’t know what I’m talking about. It sucks.

Out of all the things I was feeling, I didn’t dare let myself go down the road of regret, remorse or (self) reproach. In the past, I would’ve dove head first into some serious hate talk. But this time, I’m not beating myself up about these lapses in self-care. Nothing productive comes from talking negatively to yourself. Instead, figure out what is going on, why you (or in this case, me) are making choices that are not in your best interest and how to refocus and push reset.

At the end of the day, it’s not a question of the way the inhalation of bags of chips will make me look. It’s really not even about being healthy or achieving “goals”. It’s about feeling good and doing what will make me feel my best.

Along with the bag of chips, I’ve decided to put regret, remorse and self-reproach into the trash. When this happens again, and I’m sure it will happen again – not the Houdini-ing sweet potato chips, the self-care slip up, I will remind myself to do exactly this: take a step back, a deep breathe, remember to refocus on my intention of feeling good and reset.

You’re the boss and you can always decide to give yourself another chance. 

 

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